Artist Aaron Meyers' performance piece at the Grey Art Gallery earlier this month was titled "It Must Be Nearly Finished," but hopefully the career of this outstanding artist is just beginning.
The artwork lasted the duration of the gallery's opening reception for "From Paul Kostabi with Love" (about 3 hours) and consisted of Meyers sitting on a plank mounted to the wall. It sounds simple enough, right?
The trick is that Meyers was drilling into the plank with an electric drill the entire time he was sitting on it. The artist could have fallen at any time, a fact that created great suspense for enthusiastic onlookers at the gallery.
Meyers, a Pittsburgh native, said that he didn't anticipate all the excitement.
"I was really nervous going into it," he said. "Last year, I tried to do a similar outdoor performance in Lewisburg and it didn't go over so well. For that piece, I was just going to sit in a chair until I fell off. People didn't seem to get anything from it and I was eventually forced to end the work before I fell - it had something to do with litigation issues."
This time, Meyers had consent from the gallery - he signed a waiver - and artgoers were thrilled by the show.
Above, Lewisburg-based artist Aaron Meyers is seen performing “It Must Be Nearly Finished” at the Grey Art Gallery, 140 W. Fourth St., earlier this month.
"For whatever reason, the audience at the Grey Gallery was just incredibly receptive," he said.
The title of the work comes from "Endgame," a play by the great Irish avant-garde writer Samuel Beckett, who is a big influence on the artist.
"Lately, Beckett has been influencing everything I do," Meyers said. "He somehow turns serious issues and intense tragedy into incredible comedy. I also love how he reduces things to their most basic elements. I find that when making work, it's easy to keep adding layers and to make things more complicated, it's much harder to strip things down to their essential elements - Beckett manages to do that with real grace."
The day after the performance at the gallery, Meyers posted a blog entry about the experience, which may be found at ajm029.blogs.bucknell.edu/all-posts. He said that he often writes something to go along with his artworks.
"I like the pieces to stand on their own but writing a little helps me make sense of everything," he said. "Hopefully the viewers like it as well."
Well, some notables, including NYC artists-musicians Paul and Mark Kostabi, already have taken notice. Paul posted a video of Meyers' performance online and Mark posted a link to the blog on Facebook with the caption "Grey is good."
And while "It Must Be Nearly Finished" was fun and impressive, it just hinted at all the quality work Meyers has done, much of which may be viewed through photos and videos at www.aaronmeyers.us.
Meyers has had a few previous works exhibited at the Grey Art Gallery, including "Latticework," a piece that featured a large, porous steel head on wood framework. Artgoers were invited to lift the work and roll the head back and forth as much as they desired.
Another piece, titled "Ebbing," also was interactive. Gallery visitors could turn a crank, which caused plaster casts of Meyers' feet to go up and down as they banged against a platform of broken wood.
Meyers said that his work is partially inspired by the myth of Sisyphus, everyone's favorite king who was doomed to pushing a boulder up a steep hill for all eternity.
"In my mind, the myth of Sisyphus and many Beckett stories are really connected," Meyers said. "The protagonists are stuck in endlessly repetitive situations. When I look at my life, I feel about the same. Every day I eat and then I am hungry again; I wash the dishes then make them dirty; [and] I answer emails and then my inbox is full again. I used to feel condemned like Sisyphus, but Beckett really offered me a solution: To just sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all."
Meyers is a sculpture teaching assistant at Bucknell University, where he studied mathematics as an undergraduate student.